Divorce can be an emotionally challenging and difficult process in the best of times, but when children are a part of the equation, everything gets ramped up to the nth degree.
Navigating the complexities of child custody can feel overwhelming, but with the right information, resources, and support, you can protect your children’s best interests and ensure a smooth transition.
Here’s what you need to know about child custody and divorce in Texas. Read more about how child custody is handled below or watch this short video from Managing Attorney, Jennifer Ilarraza about what to expect during a child custody case.
How Child Custody Is Handled in Texas
In Texas, there are some terms you need to understand when it comes to child custody. The first is “conservatorship,” which is just a term that’s used to define custody. There are three types of conservatorship:
- Joint managing conservatorship: Both conservators share decision-making responsibilities, like decisions regarding education and medical. This is the most common arrangement in Texas because there is a presumption that joint managing conservatorship is proper. Just because parties are named joint managing conservators does not mean that they are awarded equal time with the child(ren).
- Sole managing conservatorship: One parent has the primary responsibility for making decisions about the child’s upbringing. This is usually only granted when there’s abuse, neglect, or absence by one party. A court cannot allow people to be joint managing conservators if there is a history of domestic violence.
- Possessory conservatorship: This is the conservator who visits, or has possession and access, of the child(ren). They can still have parental rights, including the right to make decisions as stated above. The other conservator is the custodial party. The custodial party would have the right to designate the primary residence of the child.
In most cases, Texas courts award joint managing conservatorship, which allows both parents to share decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. However, the court may award sole managing conservatorship to one parent if it’s determined to be in the child’s best interest.
Understanding Texas Child Custody Laws
Child custody laws in Texas are designed to protect the best interests of the child. The court will consider various factors when determining custody arrangements, including each parent’s ability to care for the child, the child’s emotional and physical needs, and the stability of each parent’s home environment.
When a child is very young, the courts tend to focus on who the primary caretaker is when awarding primary custody. Basically, the courts look closely at the existing roles and responsibilities of each parent — who is taking the child to doctor’s appointments, to school, to soccer practices? Who is making the big decisions on a regular basis?
The court may consider a child’s preferences after a certain age, but it’s only a consideration — a child doesn’t get to choose who they live with. The court is focused on the best interest of the child and any evidence that supports that (or goes against it, like abuse or neglect).
It’s important to remember that Texas courts do not give preference to either the mother or the father. Instead, they focus on creating an arrangement that best meets the child’s needs, with the goal of maintaining a strong, healthy relationship between the child and both parents.
Top 10 Child Custody Tips for Texas Parents
Navigating child custody during a divorce can be a challenging and emotional process, but if you’re prepared, you can meet those challenges more effectively. Here are our top 10 tips to help you through this difficult time and ensure the best outcome for you and your children.
1. Familiarize Yourself with Texas Family Law
Before you begin any child custody proceedings, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with Texas family law. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a parent can help you make informed decisions and effectively advocate for your children.
While research is important, the best way to do this is to speak with your attorney, take notes, and pay close attention to everything they tell you. They are your best resource.
2. Prioritize Your Children’s Best Interests
When making decisions related to child custody — especially as the divorce gets underway — always prioritize your children’s needs and well-being.
While it’s possible your decisions won’t be put under the microscope, if you end up in a contentious divorce with the courts deeply involved, they almost certainly will be.
Consider what living arrangements, schedules, and parenting plans will provide your children with the most stability, love, and support, and then put those into action.
3. Develop a Solid Parenting Plan
A detailed parenting plan can help minimize conflicts and provide clarity for both parents. Be sure to include specific information about visitation schedules, decision-making responsibilities, and communication between parents.
This shows the court that you’re taking your ex-spouse’s rights and your children’s best interests seriously.
4. Maintain Open Communication with Your Ex-Spouse
Effective communication is key to successful co-parenting. Keep the lines of communication open with your ex-spouse, and be respectful and honest in your interactions.
Remember, your goal is to create a positive environment for your children, so it’s essential to work together as a team. Conflict will only make it more likely that the courts have to intervene, which will cost you and your spouse time and money and add stress to your children’s lives.
5. Be Flexible and Willing to Compromise
Flexibility and compromise are crucial during child custody proceedings. Be open to considering your ex-spouse’s perspective and be willing to make adjustments to your parenting plan as needed.
This approach will not only benefit your children but may also help you reach a resolution more quickly. Pick your battles carefully — the less you’re willing to compromise, the more likely your spouse will do the same, which will ultimately require the courts to step in.
6. Keep Detailed Records
Document any important interactions, agreements, or incidents related to your children’s care. This information could become crucial evidence during custody proceedings and can help support your case.
This is especially important if your spouse is abusive, neglectful, or absent. Because these issues are often kept secret, without documentation and proof, it can be hard for the court to take action.
This may mean calling the police and filing a report, which you may not want to do, but in these cases, a report is going to be a critical piece of evidence. Ultimately, this is something that must be done for the best interests of your children.
7. Stay Heavily Involved in Your Children’s Lives
Regardless of the custody arrangement, strive to remain an active and involved parent in your children’s lives. Attend school events, extracurricular activities, and family events when possible, and maintain regular communication with your children.
This not only shows the court that you’re serious about staying in your children’s lives, but it’s what’s best for your children! They need you now more than ever.
Children have a tendency to blame themselves for divorce — the more you’re around, the easier it will be to reassure them that this isn’t the case.
8. Seek Professional Help When Needed
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need guidance or support during the custody process. This may include working with a family law attorney, therapist, or mediator.
The last thing you want to do is to try to handle this yourself. The decisions made during this period of your life will have lifelong consequences — you need to stay on top of it and have all the professional support you can get.
9. Be Prepared for Court Proceedings
If your custody case goes to court, it’s important to be well-prepared. Your attorney is going to lead you through this process step-by-step, but it will still require some work on your part beyond just showing up in court.
You may need to gather documents or complete other tasks at the request of your attorney. Make sure you ask lots of questions and clarify anything you’re unsure about.
10. Practice Self-Care and Seek Support
Divorce and child custody battles can take a significant emotional toll on everyone, including you! Prioritize your own self-care, and seek support from friends, family, or support groups to help you through this difficult time.
Remember, you don’t have to do this alone.
Let’s Talk About How We Can Help You Today
If divorce is looming in your life, we’re here to help.
Contact us today to set up your initial consultation, or call us directly at (214) 646-3253.
We can’t wait to hear from you!